Lawmakers Vote to Fix ‘Corrupt’ Judicial System

By Htet Naing Zaw 8 March 2017

NAYPYIDAW — After a heated debate between the chief justice of Burma’s Supreme Court and lawmakers, the Lower House on Tuesday approved a proposal that allows Parliament to oversee the judicial system.

U Tin Htwe of Waw Township put forward the proposal to the Lower House on Feb. 10, urging the court to fix what he and fellow lawmakers describe as a corrupt judicial system.

Twenty-five lawmakers discussed the proposal on Tuesday, suggesting that the jury system be adopted to improve the judiciary.

Despite Chief Justice U Soe Nyunt’s objection, the proposal was put to the vote and approved by 286 of the lawmakers while four voted against and 61 abstained.

U Tin Htwe’s proposal argued that although there was a decline in corruption cases in the judicial system during the first few months of the new government, the culture of corruption appears to have returned and could thrive again.

Chief Justice U Soe Nyunt responded that it was U Tin Htwe’s personal assumption, adding: “He hasn’t submitted convincing evidence and named the corrupt judges or explained how they took bribes.”

The Supreme Court deals with complaints that have been made against all other levels of court in the country, which, he says, administer justice for over 300,000 cases annually.

Out of this number, the Supreme Court receives more than 1,000 complaints, according to the chief justice, who said this was a comparatively small amount. He added that less than one percent of judges were found guilty of corruption charges.

“Accusing the judicial system of being paralyzed because of bribery and corruption harms the dignity of the courts,” said U Soe Nyunt, claiming the accusation went against the 2008 Constitution. “This amounts to contempt of court.”

Lower House Speaker U Win Myint rebuffed the claim of contempt, explaining that the Constitution provides checks and balances between the three branches of power and the proposal was the result of these checks and balances.

“Harsh action should be taken against corrupt plaintiffs, police, lawyers, and law officers as well as corrupt judges if we want to fix the judiciary system,” lawmaker U Myo Zaw Aung told the Parliament.

The previous government appointed all the judges serving at the Supreme Court. The Constitution allows them to hold the position until they turn 70.

Current lawmakers say another proposal to adopt the jury system was rejected by the previous Parliament under former President U Thein Sein’s government.

Translated from Burmese by Thet Ko Ko